01 April 2009

GG under scrutiny again

In The Australian Malcolm Colless reports that some eyebrows have been raised by the Governor-General's recent activities .

Kevin Rudd may feel comfortable with an interventionist governor-general but this view is by no means unanimous within his ministry.

In fact a number of ministers are known to be not just concerned but angered by Governor-General Quentin Bryce's involvement in the affairs of government. The fact that no one has apparently conveyed this to the Prime Minister is more a reflection of the autocratic way Rudd runs his ministry than the level of concern about politicising the role of Australia's head of state. "Voicing disapproval of the Prime Minister's judgment on this issue, even in private, would be tantamount to committing political suicide. But it is nevertheless outrageous," one senior minister told The Australian.

Reluctance to buy into this may have also been influenced by persistent rumours in Canberra that Rudd is likely to reshuffle his ministry after thebudget.

Attention is at present focused on Bryce's 10-nation, 19-day lobbying tour through Africa to drum up support for Rudd's push to gain a non-permanent seat for Australia on the UN Security Council. But ministers are still bristling over the unprecedented private briefing she ordered in February from the heads of the departments of Foreign Affairs and Treasury and the head of the defence forces, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston.

Presumably the relevant ministers signed off on these security briefings and received the Prime Minister's blessing before they took place.

But after media reports about the meetings at least one other senior minister issued a blunt instruction that any request from Yarralumla for departmental briefings should be unambiguously declined.

Whether this justifies calling Ms Bryce an "interventionist" G-G is questionable.

Regarding Ms Bryce's trip to Africa, the program on her website isn't detailed enough to draw many firm conclusions from.

An itinerary including fuller details of all meetings etc would have helped.

Many of her appearances, eg laying a wreath at a war memorial in Dar es Salaam, receiving Botswana's Senior Female Minister and Minister for Local Government (one and the same person) and attending a morning tea with "prominent Kenyan women", seem to be the sort of things you'd expect the Queen to do. Therefore it should be appropriate for our G-G, as the Queen's rep here, to do the same.

But of course it raises other questions such as why the representative of our "real" according to the Constitution) head of state rather than the head of state herself should be making such a tour. A (minor?) anomaly in our current constitutional arrangements.

No comments: